Girls cross country team looks to make small step to state

The Monticello girls cross country team brings back five of its top seven runners a year after finishing one place away from qualifying for the state meet. (File photo)
The Monticello girls cross country team brings back five of its top seven runners a year after finishing one place away from qualifying for the state meet. (File photo)

The Monticello girls’ cross country team will enter the 2017 season with a potent mix of talent, depth, and experience. To top it off, they have about as much built-in motivation as a team could ask for to start a season. Monti enters the fall coming off two consecutive seasons in which they finished one place shy of a state berth. And not just one team place, one individual place. For two straight seasons, Monti has finished third at sections by just one total place.

This year they bring back five of the top seven-runners from last year’s section squad, and are on a mission to erase the close calls of seasons past.

“I think there’s a lot of talent across the board,” said Coach Gaile Grieme. “We definitely want to challenge for the conference title and to be top two in the section.”

Monti brings back five of its top six runners from last season’s section meet, including the top four.

Gabriella Witschen and Elise Yeager, set to be a freshman and sophomore respectively this year, come back after pacing the team at that meet. Madison McDermott, one of the teams top and longest tenured runners, is battling back from an injury and hopes to work back to full strength in the early part of the season. McDermott will be a junior this season. Her younger sister Kaelin was sixth on the team at the section meet last year, and will be back as a freshman this year.

Also back, and expected to be near the front of the Monticello pack, will be sophomore Ashanti Guertin.
Those five highlight a roster that boasts 59 total athletes, the most in the history of the girls’ cross country program.

Several of them figure to push the top returners for spots. According to Grieme, other girls that have been running with the top pack in the early part of practice include: seventh-grader Fayese Smith; eighth-graders Grace Smith, Sidney Brant, and Tahlia Mendoza-Brunotte; sophomores Baylee Iaquinto and Ava Soucy; junior Lily Johnson; and senior Oriana Johnson.

Grieme said that Monti will hopefully be able to enter 10 (compared to the usual seven) girls in their two-mile race in Rosemount Friday, which will help Monti start to shake out a seven-girl lineup, at least for the early going.

“There’s a lot of unknowns, but a lot of potential,” said Grieme.

One other thing Grieme said the team has going for it is great leadership, including from some upperclassmen that likely won’t run varsity this season.

“They’re doing an excellent job of leading those younger girls,” said Grieme. “And that’s important with the numbers we have that we have good leadership across the board.”

The coach also said that Monti definitely is aware of the stakes, and its recent history, as it enters this campaign.

“They know they’re close to advancing,” she said. “We just have to work hard every day and get better. And they’re doing that.”

Monticello was scheduled to start the season Friday, Sept. 1 with the two-mile race in Rosemount. Its first full race of the year will come at the annual Monticello Invite, which has been moved to a Saturday this year. The boys and girls race will be held Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. at Bertram Regional Park.

Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]